Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Frozen Yogurt with Figs and Honey

I knew that this guy was going to be trouble. There was no way that I was going to make it out of the summer without a severe ice cream-making addiction, so I just embraced it - there's been mint, coffee, peanut butter ice cream (that one's coming soon - stay tuned!), the list goes on. And I haven't really looked back.

OK - I looked back just a little bit, deciding that not everything that The Churnster (as I've affectionately dubbed him) produces has to be the richest thing ever (or at least the richest thing since the last thing that we made together). I made frozen yogurt. And you know what? It was awesome. It was made with greek yogurt, so it had that thick, assertive tang that I love so much about the stuff. I cut back on the amount of sugar in the recipe, since I really wanted that tang to be at the forefront of the finished product.

When I was in Greece, I ate yogurt with walnuts and honey with reckless abandon. The simplicity of it all just made me sit back and appreciate the various ingredients, which came together to form one of my favorite combinations of all time. And because that shit is awesome. Seriously - smooth, thick, tangy yogurt, tempered by the muted sweetness of thinly drizzled Greek honey, saccharine, yes, but not cloyingly so, and dotted with the crunch of bitter walnuts. I can think of almost no better dessert. Except ice cream, of course. So obviously the next logical step was to make this into a frozen dessert.

Greek yogurt is pretty much just your plain-old typical yogurt from which the whey has been strained. Since the liquid's been removed from the equation, you're left with unadulterated yogurt; in-your-face, tangy, thick-enough-to-stand-a-spoon-in yogurt. I know that a lot of people can't get into it for those exact reasons. But those very reasons are why it makes such a great base for frozen yogurt. While a far cry from the richness of an egg yolk-laden custard base, it's at once rich and delicate, with a tangy heft that makes you sit up and take notice. So even if you're loathe to eat greek yogurt on its own, give this a go; you won't be sorry.

I swapped out the walnuts for figs, for no real reason other than I had a pint of them and they don't have a particularly long shelf-life. And they pair awesomely with honey and yogurt. It also seemed a "Greek" enough substitution so as not to stray too far from the nostalgic roots of the yogurt.

I can absolutely not stress enough how easy this recipe is. There's close to nothing to be done - seriously. Take some greek yogurt, mix in some sugar until it dissolves - the stand mixer made incredibly easy work of this, but it is not much more laborious to do it by hand, add in some vanilla if you're so inclined. Then let it chill in the fridge for a little bit - both figuratively and literally, of course, until you're left with a cool and laid-back yogurt base. Throw that awesomeness into your ice cream maker and you're there. That's. It. Awesome frozen yogurt at your disposal.

Greek Yogurt with Figs and Honey
Adapted loosely from 101 Cookbooks
Makes approximately one quart of frozen yogurt

This recipe is really the easiest thing ever. It's tanginess is reminiscent of the frozen yogurts on offer at Pinkberry, Red Mango and those guys. But it's wholly unlike those, if for no other reason than that you know there's absolutely nothing in there but the good stuff. No chemicals, no stabilizers, just pure yogurt. And anything else you want to throw in. I went with figs, which I cut and allowed to freeze a bit on a sheet tray before throwing them into the mix so that they wouldn't be completely dessicated by the Churnster. The only downside with this frozen yogurt is that it's best almost immediately after it's been made, and tends to harden a bit more than is desirable in the freezer. Just take it out a few minutes before you're ready to eat it, though, and you should be good to go.

If you're turned off by the sourness of plain yogurt, feel free to add a teaspoon of vanilla, which will temper the tang and round out the flavor a little bit. Next time I make this, I'm throwing some fresh ground black pepper in the mix. I ground some over a couple of servings after drizzling some honey on top and it was a great move, so I think it deserves a place within the yogurt as well.

3 cups Greek yogurt (the original recipe calls for full-far yogurt, but given that I was trying to make this a lighter production, I went for 1 1/2 cups full-fat yogurt, 1 1/ cups 2%)*
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
1 1/2 cups fresh figs, cut into small pieces and semi-frozen
1/2 cup honey

Mix the sugar (and vanilla, if using) into the yogurt and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved into the yogurt. Refrigerate until the mixture is cold. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. About two to three minutes before the churning process is finished, gently add the figs to the ice cream maker. Spread about a third of the honey on the bottom of the container in which you plan to store the frozen yogurt. Working quickly, add about a third of the frozen yogurt to the container, then another layer of honey, then another third of the frozen yogurt, then honey, then yogurt, until it's all been used. Freeze until ready to eat, or dig in immediately. Either way, drizzle some extra honey on top, and if you're up for it, a couple of twists of the pepper mill.

*Greek yogurt can be a bit expensive, so if you want to make your own, just take a container of plain yogurt and empty it into a colander that you've lined with cheesecloth or paper towels and that you've placed over a bowl (to catch the whey, since it will make a mess otherwise). Place it in the fridge and let it strain overnight. Do note, however, that the volume of the yogurt will be cut in half, so a cup of plain yogurt will produce 1/2 cup of greek-style yogurt.